The holiday season is supposed to be joyous, but that isn't always the case. High expectations, financial difficulties, and increased social demands or lack of family and friends can make this an overwhelming time of year. And for those grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be especially painful.
Whether you're feeling lonely or depressed, or you're coping with grief, there are things you can do to ease your difficulties. Try these strategies to cope with feeling down during the holidays:
A great way to distract yourself from worries and sharpen your awareness of what you have to be thankful for is to help others. There are numerous volunteer opportunities during the holiday season – try dishing out meals at a soup kitchen or collecting clothing for a coat drive. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll feel happier making a difference.
#2: Talk to Someone
Make a point to talk to supportive people during the holiday season. Schedule an appointment with your therapist, or phone or coffee dates with a friend or family member. It's important to share what you're going through and let others offer emotional support.
Being physically active is a free, and nearly instant, mood booster. Studies show that exercise treatment for depression can be as effective as antidepressants in some people. Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, using that time to move your body will pay off in happiness dividends.
#4: Plan Ahead
If you're already feeling lonely, the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. Instead of withdrawing from friends and family, plan what you're going to do for the holidays. Host a gathering and invite people who don't have family nearby, or plan to attend church gatherings and community events.
#5: Avoid Shopping
It can be discouraging, and embarrassing when you don't have the funds to buy holiday gifts. Rather than racking up credit card debt, make homemade gifts or suggest a gift exchange so you can buy one gift instead of something for everyone in your group.
If facing gatherings and gift giving fills you with dread, take a vacation instead. Visit a country with an entirely different culture or plant yourself on a sunny beach where the holidays aren’t a big deal. Even better? Go on a "voluntourism" vacation, where you can volunteer to help people in other countries.
#7: Nicely Say "No"
The holiday season is filled with parties and school and work functions. But you don't have to attend all of them. Go to the gatherings that mean the most to you and skip the rest. You can simply tell people that you have other plans. Everyone understands this is a busy time of year, and no one has to know that your plans include PJs, the couch and your favorite TV shows.
#8: Nurture Yourself
During this time of year, it's easy to get caught up in all the "have-to-do's." But setting aside time to indulge in something just for you – a massage, a meditation session, a long walk, reading a book – is more important than checking yet another holiday obligation off the list. Even spending just 15 minutes a day doing an activity you enjoy can keep you centered and calm.
Find the Support You Need
If you're having difficulty coping with your emotions or functioning on a daily basis, our behavioral health experts can help. Get the care you need to feel better during an emotionally taxing season.
4 Steps to More Fully Enjoy the Holiday Season
Getting Through the Holidays
Are You at Risk for Depression? Take Our Online Assessment
Moving Just 1 Hour a Week May Curb Depression Risk